Summer on purpose

Chaplains’ Corneroliver edwards

Padre Oliver Edwards

A few years ago… ok more than a few years ago now! A few years ago my wife and I were blessed to be able to get away on a vacation, just the two of us, while our kids were very young. Being young parents, it was a tough go trying to change all the diapers, keep up with toddlers and rowdy preschoolers. (We had all boys you see, and they had a LOT of energy!) So when the grandparents agreed to look after them to give us a break we jumped at the chance. We hopped on a plane and landed in Manzanillo, Mexico for an all-inclusive week.

While we were there though, we had a chance to take some tours of local sights. We rode in a van from the resort into the city of Manzanillo, driving through countryside that was nothing like Canadian prairie farmland with banana plantations, adobe villages, and cerveza signs. Then we took a longer ride into the big city of Guadalajara, with its stunning cathedrals, ruins, and a smoking volcano thrown in for good measure!

It was a great week, but on those drives through the country what also struck us was the poverty of the country-folk. We saw “homes” that housed families as large as ours that were barely four walls and a roof. We saw dirt tracks, and people walking because their beaten up vehicle wouldn’t get them where they needed to go. We realized that some of the employees at our resort were residents of such homes, and we began to feel kind of guilty about living large while the people who were serving us were in poverty.

We decided after that trip that the next time we were able to get away on our own, it would be for a purpose. To make a positive contribution to the world we live in. We were aware that getting away for getting away’s sake wasn’t wrong, but we wanted to be intentional, to vacation “on purpose” – giving us a break from the humdrum of our daily rhythms, but also giving back by doing something positive. Thankfully, two years later, our parents had fully recovered from looking after our young ones, and had forgotten enough of the experience to agree to do it again! We joined a team that travelled to Rwanda, just 12 years after the Genocide, and saw a nation rebuilding with forgiveness and vigour. We participated in building a model school to train teachers, and build up through education the most abundant resource the tiny nation had – their people.

As we head into summer, I know that the pandemic has thrown many for a loop. Some of us are exhausted in a way we have never experienced. Some of us are mentally, even spiritually worn out and are in desperate need of something we might not even know how to obtain. Because many restrictions have only recently been lifted, summer plans are even now just being finalized. I encourage you if you are making that plan now, to be intentional about doing more with your summer than just seeking pleasure or rest. I encourage you to vacation “on purpose”. Find a way to include in your plans opportunities to
give back, to contribute positively to others. It might sound like more work, but you will find that in giving generously of your time, your energy, and maybe even a little of your money to making your world a better place is even more restorative than just suntanning on a beach or drinking a cold one by a fire. Something special happens when you give life to others. The blessing is returned to your very soul, lightening your load and providing strength you didn’t even know you lacked.

Vacation on purpose this summer. Be blessed!

oliver.edwards@forces.gc.ca